Economic transformation in theory and practice

What are the messages for Africa?

Clemens Breisinger, Xinshen Diao
ifpri discussion paper

"Encouraging signs of growth acceleration in Africa may herald a new development era of rapid transformation. In an effort to promote the future success of African transformation, we herein provide an extensive literature review on development economics and empirical observations from successfully transformed countries, along with analytic narratives on the transformations of Thailand and Mexico. To conclude, we derive six key messages for African transformation. We find that the traditional development economics theory is consistent with the transformation practice of successful countries. However, this theory needs to be broadened in light of rising inequalities during transformation. Success vitally depends on agricultural development; early withdrawal of public support away from agriculture slows down transformation, and the resulting inequalities are recognized as a persistent development challenge. Transformation also depends on industrialization strategies, but we find that winner-picking industrialization negatively affects other aspects of development, whereas home-grown, export-oriented industrialization led by private entrepreneurs opens up broader opportunities for sustainable growth. Finally, government support will be required to create a business-promoting environment and to offer incentives for African entrepreneurs to lead growth." --from authors' abstract